Abu Dhabi - Travel Information
Year-round sunshine, pristine beaches, spectacular sand dunes and pulsating cosmopolitan lifestyle await every guest in Abu Dhabi. These, combined with distinctive Arabian hospitality, mystique and world-class infrastructure make Abu Dhabi an enchanting destination for experienced and novice travelers. Whether it's shopping or culture, desert experiences or a beach vacation, Abu Dhabi has so much to offer.
Abu Dhabi is located on the northeastern part of the Persian Gulf in the Arabian Peninsula and serves as the capital of the United Arab Emirates. The largest of all the emirates, Abu Dhabi makes up almost 87% of the country’s total area.
Archaeological evidence suggests that civilisations have existed on Abu Dhabi since the third century BC. The origins of the Al Nahyan family, one of seven ruling families in the UAE were established in 1793. The emirate began to expand during the pearl trading days of the late 19th century however, this initial prosperity declined during the 1930s resulting in a massive financial blow. Everything changed for the emirate when, in 1958, oil was discovered and it has been said that with oil came the birth of modern Abu Dhabi.
Today Abu Dhabi is a cultural and commercial hub and is a centre for political and industrial activities in the UAE. It is the home of both the Abu Dhabi Emiri Family and the President. Once overshadowed by the construction boom of neighbouring Dubai, Abu Dhabi is now coming into its own as a luxury travel and business destination. The development and urbanisation of Abu Dhabi along with a high average income has helped to expand this emirate into a beautiful, diverse and multicultural metropolis. Despite offering a laid back atmosphere, Abu Dhabi remains an incredibly exciting tourist destination.
BEST TIME TO GO
- Best time to visit is between November and April when the weather is at its coolest. Rest of the year temps can be unbearable outside and staying indoors with aircon is best.
- Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting. Places that normally serve alcohol stop serving it during this month. Ramadan is timed by the moon and will start around July for the next couple of years.
Abu Dhabi is an Islamic country and clothing should be modest. During the winter months light sweaters are recommended. Beachwear is acceptable at beach clubs, hotels and public beaches. During the daytime, the dress code is fairly casual although more exclusive restaurants may expect guests to dress more formally during the evening.
Taxis are readily available and reasonably priced. Metered taxis are recommended over private taxis whose rates are negotiable.
Shopping is something of a national past time in the UAE and one of the major attractions for visitors. Glitzy state-of-the-art malls abound, but have not replaced traditional souks (markets). The result is a thrilling mix of old and new where the very latest twenty-first century retail delights coexist with ancient family run businesses that trade as they have done for centuries. Shopping in the UAE really does offer something for everyone.
Traditionally souks were as much meeting places as trading centres; a hotchpotch of sandy alleys crammed with individual stalls interspersed with tea and coffee houses where men would gather to discuss the day's events over a shisha pipe or cup of tea or gahwa, Arabic coffee. Throughout the country souks have been preserved and refurbished carefully so that they retain their traditional charm. In some emirates it is possible to buy anything in the souk, from a bag of frankincense, to a gold necklace or a camel. A visit to the souk is one of the quickest ways to immerse yourself in the country's cultural heritage. In recent years the range of goods sold has increased dramatically to include everything from electrical goods to spare car parts. Generally souks are divided into areas selling similar items and many are colloquially known by what they sell - such as the spice souk, the fabric souk and the plant souk.
Shopping malls offer an incredible array of international brands - American, European and Asian. The shopping capital of the country is undoubtedly Dubai, hailed as 'the shopping capital of the Middle East', but Abu Dhabi is catching up fast and Sharjah, Ajman and Ra's al-Khaimah have recently opened new malls. Many malls include multi-screen cinema complexes, all have numerous coffee shops and many have childcare facilities. In twenty-first century Gulf living, the shopping mall is becoming a social centre in the same way that the souk has always been.
Prices are generally competitive, the key being to bargain wherever possible for the lowest price. In souks prices can drop dramatically and bargaining is expected, but increasingly major outlets in shopping malls quote 'fixed prices' and bargaining is no longer possible. That said, it is still worth asking for the 'best' or 'last' price as some outlets will offer discount without hesitation - all you have to do is ask. Gold, electronic goods, textiles and carpets are most likely to be extremely good value. But beware, some branded items are more expensive than elsewhere, books tend to be expensive.
During the Holy Month of Ramadan all Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset, and eating, drinking and smoking in public areas during daylight hours is strictly prohibited. Alcohol will not be served during this time; however, alcohol is served in restaurants and bars after sunset for non-Muslims. Live entertainment, loud music and dancing are prohibited during this period. Most businesses and shops are open only for a few hours in the morning and re-open after sunset until well after midnight.
All Goway's featured hotels make concessions for their clients and keep a restaurant open during the day for resident guests only. Sunset marks the start of Iftar, which is the breaking of the fast. This begins with a traditional meal of dates, dry fruits and fresh juices, followed by a lavish feast of grilled meats, flavoured rice and other typical Arab fare including sweetmeats. Throughout Ramadan conservative dress should be worn in public.
United Arab Emirates Travel Information
At Goway we believe that a well-informed traveller is a safer traveller. With this in mind, we have compiled an easy to navigate travel information section dedicated to United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Learn about the history and culture of UAE, the must-try food and drink, and what to pack in your suitcase. Read about UAE's nature and wildlife, weather and geography, along with 'Country Quickfacts' compiled by our travel experts. Our globetrotting tips, as well as our visa and health information will help ensure you're properly prepared for a safe and enjoyable trip. The only way you could possibly learn more is by embarking on your journey and discovering UAE for yourself. Start exploring… book one of our United Arab Emirates tours today!
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